The FFA Cup has only been going for three years but already it has captured the imagination of the soccer public – nowhere more so than in Victoria.
Two of the three FFA Cup winners – Melbourne Victory in 2015 and Melbourne City in 2016 – come from the state capital, while two National Premier League Victoria clubs, Hume City and Bentleigh Greens, have made the semi final.
The first winner, Adelaide, came from South . Beaten finalists Perth Glory (2014 and 2015) and Sydney (2016) came from WA and NSW respectively.
Queensland teams have fared poorly, with not even one side from the Sunshine State making it to the last four, something the ACT achieved last year when Canberra Olympic lost to Sydney.
Unlike the other footballing codes in which matches invariably are won by the highest quality team or the one that dominates possession, soccer lends itself to more regular upsets.
It is impossible to imagine a genuine knockout Cup competition in n Rules football or the rugby codes where power, strength and possession invariably determine results. State and second tier teams would have little chance even against the struggling top level teams due to the quality differential in players and the disparity in resources.
But the nature of soccer makes it much more possible for “mismatches” to provide compelling contests.
In soccer tactics can play a much greater role, with teams who can organise themselves defensively able to frustrate better credentialed opponents and sometimes score a goal on the break with what might be their only real attack of the match.
In footy or rugby, if a team has three times the number of inside 50s, entries near the try line or set shots for goal as its opponent, it’s not going to lose.
After three FFA Cup competitions it is possible to mine the data to find evidence of why and how the tournament – outside the obvious romance of a lower team knocking over a so-called superior – is popular, and what trends are emerging in the early years.
The Cup offers teams from all over the country from every tier of football the chance to progress and meet an A-League side in a knockout game.
As such it draws a huge entry. Data from a detailed survey of the FFA Cup collated by the players union, the PFA, shows that in year one of the competition 589 clubs entered, with over half coming from Victoria and NSW.
By the third year (2016) the number had grown by almost 20 per cent, with 700 teams entering from the earliest stages with, once again, the two most populous states providing the greatest number.
As there are only 10 A-League clubs, the vast majority of entrants come from the FFA’s “Member Federations”.
Of those the most successful – if success is measured by performance of second tier sides from the round of 32 onwards, which is when A-League teams come into the draw – is Victoria.
Teams from the NPL Victoria and lower Victorian leagues have played 30 matches at this stage of the competition and won 14, drawing five and losing only 11 for a win percentage of 47 per cent. Not all those games have been against A-League opposition, of course, but Victorian NPL teams Bentleigh Greens (2014) and Hume City (2015) have both progressed to the semi final, while Green Gully and Bentleigh both made the quarter finals in 2016.
Perhaps surprisingly the next best percentage performers have been clubs from the ACT and South , both from a much lower sample of seven matches. Teams from Adelaide and Canberra have won three of those encounters, giving them a 43 per cent success rate.
Teams from NSW have a relatively poor rate in comparison. Clubs affiliated to the Football NSW region won seven out of 26 games from the round of 32 onwards, drawing two and losing 17 for a 27 per cent record. Teams from the Northern NSW area have a much lower success rate than those from Canberra or Adelaide even though they played the same number of matches – seven. Northern NSW teams won only once at this stage of the competition, losing five and drawing once for a 14 per cent strike rate.
Queensland clubs fared reasonably well in broad terms, winning seven out of 20 for a 35 per cent hit rate, but rarely at the latter stages of the tournament, with none having ever made a semi final.
Given the nature of the fixtures – where there are teams of various mixed abilities – the scores in games tend to be bigger than on average.
The PFA data shows that the average FFA Cup goals per game ratio has been around 4.5 per match for the three seasons of the competition, some 50 per cent more than the just under three goals a game averaged in A-League contests in the same period.
The story is much closer, it should be pointed out, from the round of 32 onwards when the A-League sides enter. Games become tighter and more evenly matched, and although the FFA Cup average is above three, the goals per game ratio is much more in line with the A-League.
It would seem counter-intuitive to think that the part timers of the Member Federation clubs would have a better away record than the professionals of the A-League, but that’s how things have emerged from the statistics of the first three years of the competition.
Non A-League teams have, on average, won 48 per cent of their away games compared to the 39.2 score for A-League sides on the road. Competition rules state that when an A-League side is drawn against a Member Federation team it has to play its fixtures at the lower ranked club’s ground.
“Despite lacking the fully professional logistical support of A-League teams, Member Federation clubs travelling interstate in the FFA Cup actually outperform A-League away teams. Perhaps the novelty and camaraderie of travelling away together has elevated the performance of these teams for one-off matches,” the report suggests.
Perhaps not surprisingly the average age of Member Federation club players is much lower – at 24.9 years – than that of A-League teams in Cup matches, where the average is 27.1. NPL teams tend to have younger players hoping to make a breakthrough and find a route into the professional game.
Member Federation clubs are also much likelier to play teenagers in Cup games according to the PFA data: some 13.5 per cent of appearances by players in Member Federation teams were made by teenagers compared to less than 7 per cent by A-League teams in Cup games.
The battle to be crowned ‘s best cricketer – and potentially highest paid – is expected to be tight at the Allan Border medal count in Sydney on Monday night.
Skipper Steve Smith, his deputy David Warner and spearhead Mitchell Starc are expected to lead the overall count to claim the Allan Border medal in a year when they have been central to ‘s fortunes.
Smith has enjoyed fruitful Test and short-form campaigns, Warner has gorged on runs in the 50-overs format, while Starc has been particularly potent in the Test arena. The weighted voting system towards Tests – they are given three-times the value of Twenty20 internationals and double one-day internationals – ensures the game’s traditional format remains key to the overall count.
The voting period is from January 8 last year to January 7 this year, and includes the Test series victory in New Zealand, the 3-0 Test series loss in Sri Lanka, the 5-0 one-day series defeat in South Africa and a tumultuous home summer where the team rose from the depths of despair against South Africa to crunching Pakistan.
Smith was the dominant Test batsman, thumping 1162 runs at 68.35, including four centuries. Warner averaged less than 40 with the bat but was brilliant in the 50-overs format, thumping seven centuries at 63.09, and appears certain to be crowned one-day international player of the year. These performances, along with his contributions in the Test arena, may be enough to have him crowned the Border medallist.
Starc was absent from the tour of New Zealand because of injury but was by far his team’s best player in Sri Lanka, claiming 24 wickets at 15.16. He would have a combined 28 wickets in six home Tests, finishing the voting period with 52 wickets at 24.29.
Smith, Warner and Starc are also set to jostle for the honour of being the No.1 ranked player when the national selectors and Cricket do their next round of lucrative contracts. Test matches hold the balance of power in the list, while claiming the Allan Border medal could also be a pivotal factor. Regardless, the three appear certain to occupy the leaderboard and pocket more than $2 million each when the contracts are announced in April.
Pay discussions over a new memorandum of understanding between CA and players which have reopened in recent days could mean CA-ranked players enjoy even greater financial spoils from next year should the governing body get its way. CA wants only the best players to share in the set percentage model – with a major raise – despite players at domestic and international level having enjoyed this system since 1997.
“As a principle for the new MOU, CA believes retainers for international men should increase significantly compared to the retainers that were agreed in the current MOU,” CA’s submission says.
Glenn Maxwell and Shane Watson, the latter by way of his strong form in the T20 World Cup, are expected to poll well for the T20 award.
All-rounder Ellyse Perry has again has been tipped to be named the Belinda Clark player of the year for her efforts in the one-day international and Twenty20 arenas, while Meg Lanning is likely to be crowned best domestic player. The Clark award, named after the former n captain and three-time World Cup winner, has been redesigned into a teardrop-shaped medallion.
“There is a strong tradition of recognising performances in the n team. However, what we were seeking was to create was something distinct and unique that recognised the level of performance that was being obtained,” Clark said.
“Similarly to the Allan Border Medal with its own look and feel, it’s appropriate that this award also has its own identity and we’re really excited with what we’ve come up with.”
Nick Kyrgios: It’s crucial for him that his tendency to self-destruct be properly addressed. Photo: Darrian TraynorWhen a live interview is likely to be prickly, an interviewer can feel somewhat apprehensive in the lead-up. As last Wednesday night’s match between Nick Kyrgios and Andreas Seppi neared its climax, Channel 7’s hired gun, Jim Courier, could be seen waiting in the shadows. A penny for his thoughts.
Would it be Seppi, or would it be Kyrgios? I’d wager Courier was putting more thought into how he’d handle the latter possibility. I’d also wager part of him hoped it would be the former. A brief, and very visible, chat about a performance as complex as that of Kyrgios wasn’t going to be easy.
Alone among the TV commentators in frankly addressing what had been happening on the court, Courier is sufficiently thorough that any such interview would cover all the bases.
As it turned out, it was Seppi. Which brings to mind an interesting aspect of the television coverage of well-established, highly professionalised events like major tennis championships. For Kyrgios was the story. Yet there are limits to the control exercised by the rights-holding network.
Which is in contrast to sporting competitions still in the development phase. Later that same evening, during Ten’s coverage of The Big Bash League, Shane Watson admitted he was doing an interview under sufferance, having a few minutes earlier lost his wicket in frustrating circumstances.
Entertainment prevails in the still-developing BBL and the players play the game.
Leading up to Watson’s dismissal, the entertainment mindset was overplayed when the commentators passed statistical information to the Adelaide Strikers’ captain, Brad Hodge, live to air. This related to a particular bowler’s previous success against Watson. Even in Big Bash this was beyond the pale and cricket officialdom has reminded Network Ten of the integrity issues involved.
Such is the BBL’s nature that its organisers must think hard about how the balance between sport and entertainment is struck. The previous night, there had been media criticism of the fact that Brendon McCullum was prevented from playing for the Brisbane Heat against the Melbourne Stars due to suspension. As the Heat’s captain, McCullum had been twice adjudged responsible for overseeing slow over rates.
In the opinion of some, he was too important a drawcard to be sidelined and organisers owed it to the crowd to let him play.
The moral of this story? Even where rules clearly exist, it doesn’t take long for pressure to mount that they be ignored … in the interests of entertainment of course.
Back to Kyrgios, and if he continues on his current path he could become the saddest form of sporting entertainment: the John Daly type. If that sounds over-the- top, consider what will be scrutinised more closely when next he plays, his form or his behaviour? It’s crucial for him that his tendency to self-destruct be properly addressed.
While his performance on Wednesday night was irksome to watch, it’s important to recognise we don’t know the whole Kyrgios story. The morning after the night before, I had a chance encounter with one who does have some insights. He argued strenuously that this isn’t a bad young man, pointing to some excellent qualities. Not least of these was the manner in which he conducts his relationship with his girlfriend: a rare and revealing observation by a worldly, older man of a younger one.
Nevertheless, Kyrgios must take personal responsibility for his serial failings. His refusal to do this probably irritates ns more than anything else.
In the days before the n Open, he did a media conference wearing a T-shirt which declared “F— Donald Trump”. Here was youth expressing itself ’60s-style on a big issue.
But I wonder if Kyrgios has worked through all the things he abhors about Trump, for one of these might be the new American President’s pathological inability to accept criticism. If he gets to this point, Kyrgios might see a similarity between Trump’s response to Meryl Streep and his own to John McEnroe.
Something else Kyrgios might ponder is the observation made long ago of Jimmy Connors, in which a writer imagined the abrasive “Jimbo” as a 50-year-old, “sitting alone in an airport between flights, over a cup of coffee, faced with the shards of his past. He will be a man then and he will wish that as a boy he had done it better.” After Kyrgios’ meltdown in Shanghai last October, Connors tweeted an offer to mentor the n. Now, in Melbourne at his national championship, and before the eyes of the tennis world, Kyrgios has performed in a way that McEnroe has described as giving tennis a black eye.
For this pair of erstwhile enfants terribles to recoil at what they’re seeing is significant. Since their playing days ended, both McEnroe and Connors have written autobiographies acknowledging the behavioural failings of their competitive years. Each would agree that as a boy he could have done it better.
McEnroe and Connors won so often, though, that they got away with a lot. Sports fans are invariably more forgiving of winners.
On Wednesday night, Kyrgios lost and was booed.
Yet to merely say he lost is an over-simplification. For I suspect that as his contest with Seppi neared its conclusion, something within his psyche wouldn’t allow Kyrgios to win. He was like a boy who knew he’d done wrong and that it wouldn’t be right – indeed would be embarrassing – to take the prize.
Thus, among myriad other perverse behaviours, we saw him play one shot so inappropriate to the circumstances as to risk giving the game away. In more ways than one.
It told the crowd he didn’t care whether he won or lost. And it revealed him as a confused young man caught in the spotlight.
“Trump” appears in skywriting over Sydney. Photo: Samundra ShresthaA group of Donald Trump supporters emblazoned their delight at his inauguration across the Sydney skyline on Saturday, paying a skywriting company to write the new President’s name among the clouds.
The letters T-R-U-M-P appeared in the sky just as thousands of women took to the CBD streets to protest against the Trump presidency.
Pilot Rob Vance etched out the new President’s name twice from 12.30pm. He said those who commissioned the stunt wished to remain anonymous as they feared a backlash.
“They were Trump supporters,” Mr Vance, of Skywriting , said. “I can tell you that.
“It was OK with me. He did win the election, so half of the people must have voted for him.”
Mr Vance said the skywriting piece set his clients back $3,990.
The letters were written at an altitude of 4500 metres, using smoke emitted by Mr Vance’s Cessna. Each letter was 500 metres tall.
People from Redfern to Kogarah shared pictures of the giant text on social media. The best bit about this Trump skywriting is some rich rent seeker tax dodger will have paid 10% gst on this Sydney sky vandalism. pic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/ItxUuEVNfH— Nathan Lee (@NathanLee) January 21, 2017It’s going to be a long 4 years… #trump written in the sky over sydney pic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/JdmG2IxFsx— Damien Suplina (@DamienSuplina) January 21, 2017
Mr Vance said the period of time the letters remain readable is dependant on the weather. “They usually can be seen for 10-20 minutes, but when it’s hotter it’s shorter. And It was really hot up there today.”
A small consolation, perhaps, for those in Sydney who are not celebrating the US presidency.
Winning start: Brenton Avdulla rides Exceeds to take out the opening race at Randwick. Photo: bradleyphotos苏州夜总会招聘.auWizard of Odds: Live Odds, Form and Alerts for all Racing
James Cummings was at the forefront to start the Randwick meeting on Saturday – but he was far from the punters’ pal.
Exceeds took down heavily supported odds-on favourite Eden Roc, leaving the colt’s jockey Tommy Berry gutted, before Tactical Advantage made light of a betting drift from $4 to $7 to win the Wilkes Quality.
“Just a good start to the day with a couple of nice horses,” Cummings said. “They both have futures and are getting better all the time. I have a few ideas where I would like to go with them but I’m keeping it to myself.”
Cummings will weigh up his options with the three-year-old but Exceeds’ path seems destined on the Golden Slipper after she showed the benefit of race experience to win the opener in the famous chess board and yellow sleeves of Dato Tan Chin Nam.
In the rush to make the Magic Millions, Cummings tried the blinkers on Exceeds on debut when fourth behind From Within and Chauffeur but there was no sign of the gear as she sat sixth and accelerated off the back of Eden Roc to win by three-quarters of a length, with Kristensen and leader Pandemonium deadheating for third
“She is just a lovely style of a filly and I really liked the way she went away in the last 100m,” Cummings said. “There are [a] few options for her now.”
Eden Roc, which is three-quarter brother to Star Turn, should be followed as Berry had to work overtime to get him to find top gear, which didn’t happen until the race was over.
“I thought he was a good thing. I’m gutted. It took him 300m to work out [what] he had to do,” Berry said. “He only got going in the last 50 metres. I wouldn’t sack him, he is [a] bit like Star Turn, which took a bit of time to work it out.”
Waterhouse was happy with the way Pandemonium stuck on after leading and will send her to Melbourne for the Blue Diamond series.
It has been a while since Chin Nam has been associated with winning a two-year-old race but that was what Exceeds was bought to do.
Chin Nam’s bloodstock agent Duncan Ramage was given the brief at the Magic Millions last year to buy a speedy two-year-old type and $250,000 later the filly out of Exceedingly Happy was heading to Cummings’ yard.
“We haven’t gone out to buy a two-year-old for a long time. We can still do it,” Ramage said. “The idea was to get a horse that could run in these sort of races early.
“The first horse I bought for Dato was Capablanca, which won three races before Christmas and ran in the Slipper. He hasn’t had a runner in it since.
“He said to me we want to buy a two-year-old with some friends and this is the horse. We tried to get to the Magic Millions but the Slipper is there for her.”
Ramage suggested that a Slipper trial against her own sex and the biggest two-year-old prize are on the agenda.
“She has raced the colts twice, so she is going to be well placed against the fillies and when you buy a horse like her and she wins a race early you are thinking about the Slipper,” he said.
A race later Tactical Advantage showed the benefit of time and patience.
“He has had bone chips removed and we have had to wait for him,” Gooree racing manager and Cummings’ wife Monica said. “It is good to see him showing what he can do because he has always had talent.”
Tactical Advantage sat on the speed and burst through late to run down leader Spending To Win and score by a half neck to make it three from three this preparation.
“He is still learning what to do, so there is more to come,” jockey Glyn Schofield said.
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Sydney FC are heaping the pressure on Melbourne Victory ahead of Thursday’s grudge match, suggesting the Sky Blues don’t need to win the Big Blue so commanding is their grip on the A-League’s top spot.
Sky Blues captain Alex Brosque says Victory must win at Etihad Stadium if they are to have any chance of beating Sydney to the premiers plate.
Speaking after Sydney’s dominant 2-0 win over Adelaide United on Friday night, where Brosque scored the opener with a volley, the 33-year-old believes his club will run away with the premiership if they topple their oldest rivals after extending their undefeated start to the season to 16 games on Friday night.
Sydney opened up an eight-point gap on second-placed Victory with their win over Adelaide at Allianz Stadium. Victory were to play Perth Glory overnight.
That breathing space gave Sydney FC a sense of assurance and comfort heading into the Big Blue in Melbourne with the knowledge that even a draw will be sufficient to maintain their comfortable lead over the second-placed Victory.
“We’ve got a big game this week and it’s a must win for them, not for us,” Brosque said. “We just need to stay unbeaten and keep rolling on and keep pushing away. We definitely will be going down there for a win because we know that if we beat Melbourne Victory then there’s a big gap between us and second and that’s what we want.”
The veteran forward described Friday night’s win as a crucial three points in the context of the race for the premiership after Victory slumped to a 3-0 defeat to Wellington Phoenix in Tuesday night’s catch-up game. Sydney’s mantra since the start of pre-season has been one that focuses solely on themselves rather than rivals or the ladder, however Brosque admitted his team’s attention has drifted to the struggles of Melbourne this week.
Their shock loss has been compounded by a hefty travel schedule, which took them to Wellington, Perth and then back to Melbourne in nine days in the lead-up to Thursday’s clash against Sydney.
Despite their performance against Adelaide, capitalising on Victory’s problematic week meant the result was far more important for the Sky Blues, Brosque says.
“It was very important.” he said. “[Coach Graham Arnold] has been telling us to worry about ourselves and not worry about anyone else because if we keep doing what we’re doing then nobody is going to catch us and nothing else matters. But it is good every now and then to keep an eye on what they’re doing. The fact they dropped points midweek and they’ve got a tough road trip to Perth is good, it takes a lot more pressure off us.”
Sydney FC had to overcome a controversial first-half decision that denied them a goal, Filip Holosko’s celebrations cut short when he was ruled offside. Replays showed the Slovakian international was narrowly onside when Milos Ninkovic split Adelaide’s defence with a clever pass that should have broken the deadlock.
It was another contentious call in a season marred by officiating errors, however Arnold refused to criticise the referee. Instead, he revealed his team has been instructed not to let decisions by officials effect it and praised his players’ ability to continue on and seal a comfortable win in spite of the call.
“It’s hard, it’s hard for the linesman,” Arnold said. “A great ball from Ninkovic, the timing was perfect and Filip’s run was good. You get some and you don’t get some and that’s the way it was.
“We showed great character to forget that and move on. We spoke about it at the start of the year to remove referee decisions from the result. We want to be in control of the result itself and that’s about winning the game and winning it well.”
Andrew Nabbout may be a genuine chance to win the Johnny Warren Medal as the A-League’s best this season, but the high-flying Jets winger revealed he questioned whether he would get back into the A-League after being deemed not good enough for the worst performing n side in the competition’s history.
As the 24-year-old winger was languishing at the problematic Malaysian Premier League club Negeri Sembilan, he watched on as the club that rejected him slumped to a disastrous season. Nabbout had spent weeks on trial at Central Coast Mariners hoping to land a deal, but was deemed surplus to requirements in a team that finished with less points than any other n club in the 10 seasons prior.
As the Gosford club struggled to compete in games last year, it was only natural that Nabbout doubted whether he was good enough to return to the top tier of n football while languishing at a Malaysian club.
“I began to doubt myself, not because of my own performances, but the people around me [in Malaysia],” Nabbout said. “I was grateful to be on trial with the Mariners last year, but for whatever reason they didn’t want to sign me.
“I did look at it from Malaysia and I wish I could have been there to do something. I could have changed it or maybe had some input to make it better. But everything happens for a reason and I’m happy here at Newcastle.”
The Mariners’ loss was Newcastle’s gain.
While all the player of the year talk has been about Sydney’s Milos Ninkovic and Melbourne Victory’s Marco Rojas, Nabbout is a strong candidate, given his scintillating performances in a team thin on star power.
Some pundits have already begun calling for his selection in the n team based on his recent form and while those are premature, there’s always the chance his ancestral home of Lebanon may beat them to the player. Nabbout’s desire remains to play for the Socceroos if a chance ever presented itself, however he admitted it would be similarly hard to knock back Lebanon, who have been keeping tabs on his progress since 2013.
“They’ve contacted me a few times, but I’m concentrating on the league now, playing as many goals as possible and getting as much game time,” Nabbout said. “They said they wanted to bring me in; it was a real honour.”
The Lebanon Football Association embarked on a program to bring in all talented players from their diaspora into the fold for their national team. Players from Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Mexico have recently been part of the Cedars set-up. n-born defender Buddy Farah became a regular for Lebanon, which has also sought to cap Tarek and Ahmad Elrich in the past. Nabbout said he was open to the idea of representing his parents’ country of birth, though he had not had any direct talks with current coach Miodrag Radulovic.
“To be recognised at the national stage is massive,” he said. “I’m born here, I appreciate that and I’m proud of where my parents came from. It’s an honour, but I’ll work as hard as I can to put on that green and gold.”
Canberra athlete Lauren Wells. Photo: Matt KingTwo-time Olympian Lauren Wells has barely been over a hurdle in almost five months but she showed no signs of rust to break what is believed to be a 46-year n record.
Wells wasshocked after her 200 metre hurdles race at the AIS on Saturday, clocking a time of 25.79 seconds in her first hurdles event since the Rio Olympic Games.
Her time sent officials scrambling to check record books for the event and they found Pam Kilborn-Ryan – a two-time Olympic medallist – set the previous record of 25.7 seconds in 1971.
However, because Kilborn-Ryan’s 25.7 seconds was timed by hand, officials usually add 0.14 seconds to the recorded time.
If Wells’ electronically-timed mark is ratified, she will have just beaten Kilborn-Ryan’s adjusted time of 25.84 seconds.
“It’s a bit unexpected … I haven’t even been going over any hurdles, we’ve been concentrating on my flat speed,” Wells said.
“I honestly didn’t think I would run under 26 seconds so to have done that and hopefully set an n record is pretty exciting.
“It’s not an event I usually do so there was that novelty factor to it a bit, but it’s still relevant and it’s nice to be able to come out and run a [personal-best time].”
Wells has been working with coach Matt Beckenham to improve her technique and reset her goals after making it to the Olympic semi-finals in August.
She has limited her hurdles training sessions since the Rio Games to focus on flat speed before ramping up hurdle practice.
“I wanted to have a break and come back when I was feeling refreshed and mentally,” Wells said.
“So I thought running the 200 metre hurdles was a good way to ease back into it. I’ll run another 200 metre [flat race] on Sunday and right up until the nationals, I want to run as many PBs as I can this season.”
Wells’ stablemate Melissa Breen also made her racing comeback on Saturday with a blistering time of 10.59 seconds in a 100-yard dash at the Athletics ACT meet. Season Opener for Melissa Breen with 10.59 (0.3w). https://t苏州夜场招聘/TbXHiMbvbc
Number 3 all time 100 YARDS… https://t苏州夜场招聘/54GRUDEInb??? MattyBDEPT苏州夜总会招聘 (MBD) (@MattyBDEPT) January 21, 2017
Nick Kyrgios has admitted it’s time for him to appoint a coach but who would be prepared to take him on? Photo: Darrian Traynor Giuseppe Lavazza (left) hosting a press conference with Andre Agassi, on screen, at the n Open on Saturday. Photo: SDP Media
Former world No.1 Andre Agassi said he could have a lot to teach Nick Kyrgios but the young n would have to be willing to listen and learn.
“We know his talent, his high-end ability, it’s as much talent as you’ll see on a tennis court,” Agassi told reporters via video link from Las Vegas on Saturday.
“We have also heard directly from him he hasn’t been a fan of the game and personally has struggled with his desire, with his love for the game.”
On Saturday, Agassi said he could have a lot to offer Kyrgios but said his other commitments prevented him from taking an active role at the present time.
“He’s young and he’s an interesting person, one I would need to spend a lot more time with to understand and hopefully there would be desire on his part … to grow.”
Following his second-round loss to Italian Andreas Seppi, Kyrgios admitted it could be time for him to appoint a coach, as much to help him with his mental game as his physical development.
“I think it’s mental. Mental side of things are big for me. That’s where a coach would be good. But obviously I wasn’t physically 100 per cent. But it’s mental, as well. A massive part of it,” Kyrgios said.
Agassi said his much-publicised struggles with form and drug use meant he could empathise with Kyrgios’ battle.
“I went through many years where I was considered one of the great under-achievers,” Agassi said, adding he was “uplifted” by Kyrgios’ willingness to admit his struggles.
“He’s obviously a rebel of sorts, a fighter of sorts, he might choose to take some of those fights and fight himself and you never want to see that in somebody. I would much prefer seeing him fighting his opponent and fighting the opportunity to get better.
“He’s young enough – I don’t want to say he’s so young that this is why he feels the way he does but because he feels the way he does it’s a good thing he’s this young because he’ll have some time to work through it.”
He cautioned against the media or tennis fans rounding on Kyrgios, saying he knows “how deep one’s struggles can be and how much good can still exist at the same time”.
“I was always someone who cared more than I portrayed because it was my way of hiding myself from myself.
“I wish the good for him because he’s either uncomfortable in his skin at the moment, or maybe too comfortable. Either way it’s a learning process.”
Agassi’s appearance at the Open was organised by Lavazza, in his role as a global ambassador for the coffee company.
On defending champion Novak Djokovic’s shock second-round loss to 117th-ranked Denis Istomin, Agassi said: “It was as much a surprise to me as anyone.
“There’s no reason he can’t turn around as fast as [his game] seems to have left him. We all have our own unique journey. Novak won’t need to learn in as hard of a way as I had to learn [at my lowest point]. He’s a heck of an athlete and he still has time … one of the greatest of all time,” Agassi said.
Singer Natalie Bassingthwaite (second from left) sitting on court for the match between Serena Williams and Lucie Safarova on Thursday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen The Emirates hospitality suite at the n Open. Photo: Eddie Jim
Director of new experiences … Tennis ‘s Richard Heaselgrave in the new courtside seats on Rod Laver Arena. Photo: Mathew Lynn
Former AFL coach Mick Malthouse watches from the Presidents’ Reserve section on Rod Laver Arena. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
If your tennis fantasy combines smelling Andy Murray’s sweat and freshening up between sets in the same bathroom used by Madonna on her last world tour, well, here’s some good news.
For the first time at the n Open, well-heeled visitors can have a private dining experience in Madge’s dressing room, watch the players come down the race to Rod Laver Arena and then watch the match courtside in the most prestigious tennis seats in , if not the world.
But all this luxury comes at a price.
While organisers would not release the prices of the courtside seats, Fairfax Media has learned $22,500 will buy you the newest platinum experience for the men’s final; the women’s final costs $15,000.
The cost includes food, drinks and a private security guard to escort guests to and from their seats. And yes, there are still some seats available.
Tennis ‘s commercial director, Richard Heaselgrave, said it wasn’t enough to offer the Open’s top guests “curly sandwiches and tea”.
“Every year we stretch ourselves to find new lounges and experiences. People don’t want to come and just have dinner at a table of 10 [with a] white tablecloth and watch some tennis. They want to have things they go home and tell their friends about,” he said.
Mr Heaselgrave said the customers for the courtside seats included corporates, wealthy individuals and the lucrative Chinese market, which he’s hoping to treble to about 35,000 within two years.
With the top tickets in the stands to the men’s final selling for about $600, the courtside seats take the experience to a stratospheric level, starting with the concierge-style booking service.
“It’s a more one-to-one sale of a seat, it’s not like going on [to an online booking agency],” Mr Heaselgrave said.
He said the n Open had taken inspiration from American sport, the theatre and the cinema when it came to creating platinum experiences.
“Those other [industries] don’t have Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal so they have tried harder on the experience front. That’s the double whammy [we can offer],” he said.
The Open is also an important lure for celebrities, with the likes of Shane Warne and Natalie Bassingthwaighte already spotted in the courtside seats.
Elsewhere, celebrities and VIPs are entertained in the invitation-only President’s Reserve, as well as sponsors’ “super boxes” and hospitality suites.
At Emirates, there’s free-flowing French Champagne from morning until evening and a buffet of seafood, salads and sweets, while Lavazza uses its box to showcase coffee-infused recipes by a range of famous-name n chefs.
Dean Cleaver, regional manager of Victoria and Tasmania, said the suite was a “haven” for guests away from the on-court action.
“It’s not a hard sell, we’re trying to influence them if they’re not already flying Emirates and rewarding them if they do.”
Nigel Meakins, general manager of Lavazza , said the box gives a “social face to the business and not just business across the desk”.
“We can have a personality around our brand and … not just a transactional conversation.”
Celebrities hosted by Lavazza at the n Open have included Olympic basketballer Liz Cambage and actress Olympia Valance.
“Disappointing”, Lleyton Hewitt called the deflating end to an Open that closed in a singles sense for the 10-strong n men’s contingent with Bernard Tomic’s loss to world No.51 Dan Evans on Friday night. For the first time in three years, there will be no local male presence in the last 16.
The positives that many were keen to talk up were 17-year-old debutant Alex de Minaur, as well as the much-improved Jordan Thompson in the middle tier. But at the top end, where seeded pair Nick Kyrgios and Tomic reside, there was obviously far less to applaud.
First, Kyrgios. If we must. John Newcombe was one of the many who found the 21-year-old’s self-destruction against Andreas Seppi difficult viewing. “Yeah, like everybody else, very hard to watch,” he said. “He’s got a lot of work to do. He obviously needs to reassess what his priorities are.
“I think [on] the physical side he’s just got to get his body into great shape, because he’s a big tall guy and if he doesn’t get the body into shape the limbs are gonna break down.” And the mental part? “I think they both come hand in hand. When you get out there and you feel like your body’s breaking down, it could just be breaking down a little bit … and it seemed to me maybe that’s what was happening the other night, it all gets too much for him.
“It’s ‘oh, I’m not going to be able to live up to the expectations’. So he’s the only guy that can do it. He’s got to make a decision that he’s gonna go out and spend the time. My advice would be to take six weeks off and get your body into great shape.”
A word, too, for Tomic, who meandered through the first two sets of his match against a more pro-active and urgent Evans. What was not a terrible loss was nevertheless a wasted opportunity, given that the British player blocking his path to another second week was a battler from Birmingham rather than a dual Wimbledon champion from Dunblane. Later, the 27th seed quipped that his plan was “to stick to another 12 years of making fourth rounds, third rounds”, while acknowledging Hewitt’s critique that he had played too passively.
“If he’s going to get to the top 10, where he says he wants to be, then he’s got to be beating the Dan Evans,” said Newk, the seven-time major winner. Quite.
Todd Woodbridge thought Tomic played “a good match”, but one that should confirm his resolve to start these contests differently, more aggressively, make an early statement of intent that will help the 24-year-old avoid long and physical matches. “I think Bernie can look at that and go ‘OK, I’ve found my form, but now I’ve got to go into this next part of the year and gun it’,” Woodbridge said.
“At the top end, our guys showed they’re good enough but they’ve got to get that whole package together to be able to contend into the second week. They’ve certainly got that ability, there’s no doubt. But to me the highlight was to have some new guys come through so that we can focus on them.”
De Minaur and Thompson, most notably, with Woodbridge saving an honourable mention for Andrew Whittington, the unsung wildcard who made an overdue cameo in the second round. Acknowledging the serious physical development still required by de Minaur over the coming years, Woodbridge nevertheless saw plenty to like in the junior Wimbledon finalist, who beat Austrian Gerald Melzer on day one.
“I think we saw something really nice in him, we saw great competitive spirit, good nature, all the things you want to see out of a youngster, so that was exciting,” said the former doubles great and top 20 singles player. “And also Jordan Thompson’s summer. He made a bit of a statement that he’s ready to step up and be a [top] 50 player and contend more at bigger tournaments.”
Newcombe agrees, predicting top 40 or higher as realistic for the Sydneysider, and better still for fellow Olympian Thanasi Kokkinakis when his body finally permits, while also heartened by what he hears from Hewitt and Tony Roche about de Minaur’s attitude and effort.
“He needs to get some more weapons but he’s really keen, he wants to work hard and he’s absorbing everything he can, so I see him progressing very nicely. But it’s not an obvious one, like when you first saw Philippoussis play you said ‘shit, he’s got weapons’, and Nick the same,” Newcombe said.
“I think our young guys did well. We tend to be a little bit like the English media at Wimbledon: when a Brit wins a first round it’s big news, and when they don’t make the third round it’s like ‘oh, well, what’s going wrong?’ But I really like what Lleyton’s doing, building this culture … so I see good things but there’s a long way to go. Not bad but it could be better.”
And Hewitt, the Davis Cup captain? His assessment of ‘s week? “Obviously disappointing from the Aussie standpoint, especially on the men’s side, the last couple of days,” Hewitt said from Channel Seven’s courtside bunker. “I think we did really well to get quite a few couple of guys through to the second round but we couldn’t go into that second week. and it is a disappointing result. All the n players want to do especially well in their home grand slam, but a lot of those young guys will be good for the experience.”
David and Goliath: Little David Goffin beat big Ivo Karlovic. Photo: AARON FAVILAAs Ivo Karlovic and David Goffin posed for their pre-match photo on Hisense Arena, you couldn’t help but giggle.
It was the first time the two had ever played each other in an official match (they met at the Kooyong exhibition last weekend), so seeing them stand side by side, separated only by a net, was quite a sight. At 211cm, the Croatian is more than a ruler’s length taller than Goffin (180cm). If it was a physical clash of two men; it was David v Goliath. Well, except, David was seeded higher.
Highlighting the difference in physical make-ups of the two was their clothes.
Karlovic was dressed in a fluorescent yellow top, with matching shoes, socks and hat. You wouldn’t lose him in the dark.
The Belgian, on the other hand, was dressed conservatively in an all navy kit, with dark socks and black shoes, with only a hint of yellow. Then it’s the way they play.
Karlovic is a renowned serve-and-volleyer, for obvious reasons. His big serve is difficult to penetrate, and before you know it the ominous big man is charging towards the net to finish the point off.
But that played largely into Goffin’s hands. The compact Belgian chases down almost anything and makes his opponents work hard to win points, and he rarely makes mistakes. And that’s largely how the entire match panned out. It ended up being a procession.
Goffin made just two unforced errors on his way to a 6-3 first set win, where he continually passed the incoming Karlovic at the net. The big Croatian couldn’t find an answer and the match was over before he knew it, losing the final two sets 6-2, 6-4 in a match that lasted less than 90 minutes, repeating the dose of a week earlier at Kooyong. In total, Goffin made just five unforced errors compared to Karlovic’s 28.
“Yes, I was worried to fight until midnight,” Goffin said with a smirk, admitting he was not expecting to win as easily as he did.
“The score came as a bit of a surprise. I knew I had all the weapons in my racquet to beat Ivo, but not in straight sets.
“I was ready for a lot of tie-breaks also, but I’m happy in the way I broke him.”
The 26-year-old from Rocourt is in career-best form, finishing 2016 at a career-high ranking of 11, making him the highest ranked male player from Belgium in history. A win in the fourth round on Monday would equal his career-best performance at a grand slam, matching his efforts in last year’s French Open.
To do that, he’ll have to get past no. 8 seed Dominic Thiem of Austria, who shot up the rankings after reaching last year’s semi finals of the French Open.
Thiem had little trouble in defeating Frenchman Benoit Paire in four sets; 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in a touch under two and a half hours.
The 23-year-old last year became the youngest player to make the top 10 since Milos Raonic back in 2013.
Thiem and Goffin know each other well, having played on seven occasions, with the Belgian holding a narrow 4-3 lead.
Half a dozen tunes in and ’s Prince of Darkness announces it’s getting bloody hot on stage. Should he strip off his trademark black attire, just like the Nick Cave of old would have?
But just as the clutch of frenzied worshippers gathered at his feet begin to salivate, Cave reflects: “When I was younger I didn’t give a f…k.” He clarifies: “Well, I did actually.” “It’s just we have to keep up appearances as we get older”.
It’s a sentiment that the borderline middle-age audience at the Sydney Convention Centre relates to – how did the youthful abandon of a couple of decades agosomehow evolve into such reasoned consideration?
It’s also a handy insight into the night’s set list that encompases a 30 year career spent meditating on love, lust, loss, murder, death and religion – often concurrently. More specifically, how do these experiences shape andchange us over time?
Nick Cave – I need you“I hear you’ve been out there looking for love” Cave whispers in the set’s opener Anthocene. The line carries a sense of hesitancy and tenderness under the song’s gnawing electro pulse. It feels more like an exchange between long lost friends. And, of course, it is – this is the first time Cave and his legion of Sydney followers have interacted since the tragic loss of his son Arthurin 2015.
But the intimate reuniondoesn’t last long. White strobes slash across the arena like a switchblade and Nick Cave the legendarydemonic preacher is back as he launches into Jesus Alone.
A third cut from last year’s Skeleton Tree album, Magento, follows. It’s only three songs and we have already traversed an emotional landscape spanning the need for love and redemption through to a reflection about how “the urge to kill someone was basically overwhelming.”
Nick Cave – Jack the Ripper Higgs Boson Blues follows before the set, with the assistance of brilliant multi-media imagery moves into long-time fan favouriteterritory with furious renditions of From Her to Eternity and Tupelo.
Any good set of songs needs at least one point of contention. Tonight it ishow Cave has chosen to package his so-called “hits”The Ship Song and Into My Arms. Conventional wisdom would surely have dictated these would be left as encore numbers, but here they aremid-set. There is respectful appreciation for both, but one can’t help but feel they are there out of obligation. Does Cave simply want to get them out of the way?
Nick Cave – Distant SkyThe question is given more weight with the next two Skeleton Tree offerings, Girl in Amber and I Need You. Both contain a fresh emotional intensity that could easily see them replace the previous two songs as show-stoppers.
With his audience drenched in ruby red lighting, Cave returns to his menacing best with Red Right Hand. He prowls and taunts the front rows as only he can and throws in a social media twist tothe song’s mid-90s lyrics with “he will read your Tweets.”
Nick Cave – Red Right HandThe intensity continues with a powerful rendition of the Mercy Seat that has lost none of its brooding torment over three decades.
And then, as if to reinforce the fine line between beauty and horror, the main set wraps up with the new offerings Distant Sky and Skeleton Tree.
Having already taken out the obvious encore contenders Cave takes a leaf out of Bruce Springsteen’s book and approaches the front row for song suggestions.
Jack the Ripper is tossed up and Cave and band more than capably oblige.
The Prince of Darkness returns TweetFacebook Nick Cave, Sydney Convention CentreThe Bad Seeds then plough head-first into a rollicking rendition of Stagger Lee – a song that arguablytransports Cave back to his legendary Birthday Party past, both lyrically and performance-wise, more than anything he has produced in the past 30 years.
Another request, People Ain’t No Good, follows. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one thinking Cave surely wouldn’t end the gig on such a downer, would he? But then again maybeit would have been an appropriate statement given the events in Cave’s lifein recent years.
He wraps it up and quickly assures us: “That’s a song I wrote a few years ago. People since then have improved.”
Push the Sky Away is the show’s last offering. The line “Some people say it’s just rock and roll, but it gets you right down in your soul” perhaps best sums up the essence ofwhat Cave the artist and performer has strived to deliver to his legion of fans since the late 1970s.
Nick Cave and Bad Seeds Play at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre on Sunday night.